Monday, October 4, 2010

Thoughts on Slush

I've realized something very important, but only since I've been with Lightspeed. (Don't ask me why it didn't click in my slush reading with Fantasy...because it didn't...) Since I've made this mistake umpteen times myself - actually, I could count them up for you, based my nifty little submission spreadsheet, but since it's embarrassing, I'll just get to the point - how many times I've submitted stories without reading the magazine first. Even one issue will help, but seriously, if you're going to submit anything, save both yourself and the slush readers the effort by reading, ideally, multiple issues, before you do so.

I've been trying to repair this error the last few months by reading every single story published in every SFWA magazine I can. Usually I make it to about 5 out of 8 (the bigger names) or so, and sometimes end up skimming those about which I have started to have serious doubts regarding quality. But I've been thinking about this lately, and then decided to write this out simply because of the number of stories this morning which in no way bear any similarities to what the first few issues of Lightspeed have put out. Just now, I read a story from a SFWA-credited writer (multiple books with big SF publisher) that consisted of about 6 pages of dialogue between a woman and her best friend. No significant SF elements. If the author had read Lightspeed at all, he/she would have (hopefully) realized it's not the right fit. Plus, rarely do we take anything under 2k. There's been one exception, a reprint coming up in the next few months, but that one is stronger than my morning coffee - and anyway, flashes (and anything under 2k) need that in order to be competitive against heavier hitters.

Then there's always the problem of when reading the magazine isn't enough. Let's say, stupidity gets in the way. And I'm quite stupid, quite often. I got a rejection from WEIRD TALES on Sunday for a story that's very dear to me. It's a good story, I believe - not something I'm just close to, but it has honest value. And I've been subscribing to that magazine for a few years now, which granted, doesn't mean as many issues as I'd like because it comes out what, 4x a year? 6? Anyway, I adore it. But while what I write may have some merit, it's not WEIRD. It never has been. (And sadly, it may never be.) And throwing in a few weird-ish elements doesn't make it WEIRD. Yet I made the mistake of adding one more story to Ann VanderMeer's slush pile for her to wade through - in a moment of stupidity. And even now, talking with a close writing friend about where to send it next, I suggested another magazine - stupidly - and my friend said try it, but it doesn't fit.

We all need peers (preferably of the writing with common sense variety) to save us from poor submission choices. From our stupidity.

So I took my own advice, and purchased copies of Black Static (for Braeberry Street?) and Cicada (for Children Dumping Soup?) over lunch. Here's hoping it will get me a little closer.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Real friendship is...

It's finally fall here, mostly. Right now, it's 55 degrees outside, and I've thrown most of the windows open, and even the back screen door, although there's a gaping hole about 2 inches wide between the door and the frame - Buddy got excited one night last year and didn't see the screen, causing the door to bend nearly in half (and he didn't even get outside). But we haven't been able to bend the door completely back, nor does it seem to be easy to get a new door. I'm not complaining today, though. A few bugs are worth it.

Then it will get hot, by 11 am, maybe noon - 85 degrees in the sun. Still better than 105, but it doesn't quite make for a nice stroll.

Either way, I'm suddenly in the fall mood. I made a curried pumpkin soup last night, and chocolate chip banana bread - the soup turned out quite well, and the bread burst over the tins, but oh, it's so good. And I also bought some pumpkin beer - which tasted like ass. Terrible. Terrible, terrible, terrible. So, a Leinenkugel fall sampler pack it is. I wished I lived somewhere with a lovely local brewery, but this will certainly do. And today, maybe some kind of bread, and another soup.

But this post isn't about food, it's about video games.

I love them. I always have, far more than seems possible given the fact that we didn't have a television growing up. But I remember playing Mario Brothers at my friends' houses, and sitting for hours in my older sister's dorm room playing some quest of something or another on her roommate's computer - an ancient game. That was in, what, 1993 or something? It had to be in MS-Dos.

And then my brother bought an Xbox after I went to college - by then, we had a computer /monitor/television screen (that had no channels) at home, so I was introduced to the James Bond games - which I loved, and Halo. I loved Halo, too (aliens! spaceships! strange planets!), but I was so terrible at it, and the popping heads-bobble-alien thingies would always explode and kill me when I least expected it.

See? Look at him! Terrifying. And then right when you get up close, BAM!pop-pop-pop-pop-pop! He explodes all over you. Tiny creepy crawling thingies.

Yet I still twisted Josh's arm to play every time I went home, and then I'd just run along behind him as he killed all the aliens.

Then after college, I was introduced to Diablo 2, when I nannied for four amazing children of the most amazing woman. (Her husband was the Diablo player). And that was a fun game. Was it all the treasure chests? I don't even know. Maybe it was the catacombs, the skeleton armies, the random beasts you'd meet underground.

But it was so much fun that I'm nearly as eager as John for Diablo 3.

And skip to present day, with the Xbox 360 downstairs, and the dozen games we have. There's only a few I like, and I really, really, really like them. I've tried to figure out what it is that appeals to me about them - part of it is the story, the adventure of it. I like both the Left for Dead games (zombies! What's not to like?), but there's no real story in Borderlands, the 2k game that came out some time ago, and I adore it - the post-apocalyptic setting, the great music, the crazy mutants and rabid dogs, the bandit-like natives, the constant flux of stuff to find. It's a huge treasure hunt. And then add in zombies, one of their expansion packs, giant War-of-the-Worlds-like spider-thingies, and ninjas. I could be a spokesman for the game. (There's another expansion I might get today - sooooo excited).

But story - the real story award goes to Bioshock, both 1 & 2. I love the story, there. Dystopia galore - a new world set under the sea, with genetic enhancements and modifications? It's like a dream. Besides the story, you get to find shit (Bioshock is made by 2k - I sense a theme...) Weapons, plasmids, ammo, fun things, oh, it's wonderful. And, there's a new one coming out - I'm so excited. (I've hooked my sister on playing, too - it's that fun).

And there's Halo. People talk about the story, but meh - both Halo ODST and even the new Reach have meh stories, especially Reach. I still think Halo 3 campaign trumped ODST and Reach put together, but I've finally accepted the lure of player versus player, pvp. Not so much the addictive quality, but the endless opportunities to play better. And it's just so much damn fun when you succeed.

(Ghost Town, one of my favorite pvp maps)

The best part about it is that we can play with my brother Josh in North Dakota, his wife's brother Jordan in Wyoming, John's friend DJ in South Carolina, and his sister (across the street), and anyone else who's got an Xbox360. It's a community event.

Oh, that's where I was going with this - with an Xbox360, we can drink fall beers together, in opposite states, and shoot aliens. That's real friendship.